Middle-School Students Learn to ‘Bee’ Sustainable

Punahou Communications Staff

August 3, 2016

In the spring of 2015, three eighth-graders transformed an inquiry project into an entrepreneurial source of philanthropy for Punahou’s sustainability program. As part of an English class inquiry into bees, Miya ’19, Malia ’19 and Mia ’19 took a deeper look at bees and the role they play in the health of our ecology and agriculture.

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“Bees are really important to our world. It’s incredible how much bees impact where our food comes from and how everything gets made. But they’re dying so we need to do everything that we can to help them,” said Mia, referencing the colony collapse disorder that has sent worldwide bee populations plummeting in recent years.

“About one-third of all the food produced in the U.S. is dependent on bees. We wanted to raise awareness about the bees’ state right now. And our teacher left it to us to decide what we wanted to do and how we wanted to help,” said Malia.

The three friends brainstormed how to educate more of their peers about the subject in ways that would be also fun and engaging.

“Everyone loves food, so we figured we should make some food and donate the money to helping bees,” noted Mia. In addition to baking cookies, the girls researched DIY projects online and created lip and body scrubs using local honey. Recognizing the importance of marketing, they also built a website, Twitter feed and logo to brand their line of bee products, aptly named “Bee the Buzz.”

The girls wanted to donate the proceeds of their sales to support bees so their teacher Chase Mitsuda ’98 suggested Punahou’s own educational apiary on Rocky Hill.

In addition to being a fun project that tapped into their creativity, collaboration and communication skills, the girls say that it changed their own behavior. “I’ve switched to trying to buy more organic and natural products,” said Miya. “I realized how much bees affect us as human beings, so I’ve been trying to be more conscious of what I buy.”

Malia agreed: “I try to buy honey from local apiaries because the large companies that make mass-produced honey don’t treat bees properly. They don’t have the right nutrition and space and I don’t want to support that.” Malia also created a foraging area in her family’s garden with plants that specifically attract bees. She will deepen her understanding of the issue this coming school year by doing a field study on bees.

The project was a fine example of how learning fueled by students’ own curiosity and creativity can address real issues affecting the world-at-large. It also expressed the School’s own initiative to encourage sustainable thinking and behavior while supporting the campus apiary project. But perhaps most importantly, “It was just really fun,” summarized Mia.

Sustainability education is a priority of the Ku‘u Punahou campaign, which aims to transform teaching and learning at Punahou over the coming years. For more information visit campaign.punahou.edu

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